To start 2016 off in a BIG way, Ag Women’s Network held our first event of the season, but we tried something different. Considering the vast size of Ontario and just how far our ‘network’ extends with women from across Ontario, we held our first ever online event.
To say it was a success is an understatement for what we were expecting going in.
We welcomed many new women to our network who were enthusiastic to share who they were on our Facebook group. We shared many thought-provoking videos and articles throughout the weekend to help stimulate conversation and hear our member’s opinions and ideas. To top it off, our Twitter chat using the hashtag #AWNChat garnered awesome insight and perspective on a wide range of topics including personal development, involvement in boards/committees, and work-life ‘balance.’
After a rewarding weekend of such inspiring conversation, it made me realize that we are a network of so many amazing women that share the same backgrounds, upbringing, thoughts and dreams. We want a lot of the same things and have ideas on how to make positive change in the sector we all love, agriculture.
But what also resonated with me is that we also face a lot of the same challenges.
Gender inequality; barriers to job promotions; feelings of unworthiness; negative thinking; anxiety; balancing motherhood; the reality of being a new mom; lack of confidence in our own abilities – these are some of the challenges that we all face together, as a network.
On an important day like today where we are celebrating #BellLetsTalk Mental Health day, it is crucial to make our AWN members feel OK to openly discuss their challenges without judgement or criticism. That is exactly what our courageous AWN member Maureen Balsillie did with her very honest post this week entitled, “Mental Health in Agriculture – Why Aren’t We Talking About It?” That is how we’ll turn these challenges into positive opportunities – by knowing that we support each other and can talk openly about the challenges.
After the weekend we had two weekends ago, it made me realize that our Ag Women’s Network is not just about helping each other ‘get better’ in our skill set and create more opportunities for women in Ag. Our network is also about a community of women there to support each other, so in those times where someone needs an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or reassurance that others are going through what they are going through, that they have a community that will listen and support them, when they need it most.
There is no better time to have the community of support we do in our Ag Women’s Network. Let’s keep this amazing conversation and rally of support going – both to create opportunities for each other but also to address the challenges we face, together.